Spotlight on Spotlight

spotlight thumbDo you suppose I really like to work out?  How could that be?  This week I am doing a pre-Oscar marathon:  mid-day movie then the gym then home.  Almost as soon as the curtain went up, I could hardly wait for “Spotlight” to be over so I could go to the gym.  Was it an inexplicable love for the gym or was it “Spotlight?”  If you lived through the charade of the Catholic Church you knew the outcome and if you revisited it on any movie website, you were reminded of how hard this team at The Boston Globe worked to uncover it.  We know the outcome.

So what pickings were there:  We could watch how tense the team got.  We could be amazed at how stereotypical all the Catholics looked.  We could love the shots of Boston (and be happy we don’t live there with the lace curtains).  We could wonder if Ruffalo had gained weight.  We could watch the woman reporter slam in the dishwasher drawer in her exasperation to get the job done right.  We could wonder why Michael Keaton hadn’t done anything about it when years earlier he’d gotten a clue as to the scope of the problem.  We could do all that – and not get hit by a cab that time while running across the busy street – and then finally it was over and I was parking at the gym.

This is not to say the movie is not good.  Very good to put the story out about the extent of upper Church leadership covering up the abuses of so many members.  Very good.  Very good to scroll that long list at the end.  Thank you.  Good job.  But drama involves the turning of the human heart.  Each of the main characters got wound up at the very beginning and stayed that way until the very end.  They did get tighter and tighter wound, but they didn’t change.  They simply conquered and presumably breathed a sigh of relief, but then the credits rolled so we didn’t even get to see that sigh.

I would love to see the drama of the human hearts in this story:  what happens when a child decides to hide or shoot up or kill himself or keep the secret from his wife or seduce a young boy himself?  What happens when the guilty priest moves in with his witch sister?  Was she his dominatrix? What happens after the mother brings the plate of cookies in to the living room to the police and the priest?  Does she just keep baking cookies? What happens after Granny asks for that glass of water when she reads the story in the press?  Does she just go back to Mass? What happens when people shut up?  How do they crack?  That would be … a story.  This particular story is simpler:  get an assignment, make it tough, then do it.  Done.  I thought for a minute or two that Ruffalo was going to turn out to have been molested … but no, that would have been a story.  The woman reporter did get the dishwasher drawer shut, but of course she did.  That wasn’t a story either, but interesting how the silverware loads in that model.   Michael Keaton did know and apparently didn’t do a thorough job years earlier, but this story wasn’t about that story.  Unless we are to assume his current gusto was to overcome that past oversight.  Maybe.  But then that leaves the movie making all up to us, in our heads.

Nonetheless, I do not want to criticize this movie.  This is the second or third big one this year in the genre of dramatizing real stories.  It is this year’s “All the President’s Men” they say.  A partner to “The Big Short” and kind of a partner to “Sicario” except that in Sicario we didn’t know what was going on–which is precisely what kept us on the edge of our seats.  But it is very good education that these true political stories are getting out there and supported by great actors so that more people know about certain important and tragic events.

The gym was good.  No story there either, but I didn’t expect one.  In the spirit of this movie, I conceal how many stars it gets.

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